America’s New Number One Brewery

Which brewing company is America’s largest? The answer may seem obvious at first. You might think it is Anheuser-Busch, the makers of Bud Light and Budweiser. Nope, think again. Next guess, it must be MillerCoors, the makers of Coors Light. Wrong again. The largest American brewing company is D.G. Yuengling and Son of Pottsville, PA. “America’s oldest brewery” is now the largest as well. This information comes from Beer Marketer’s Insight, a leading source of beer industry information.

It is kind of a trick question. America’s biggest American beer brands are not really American beer at all anymore. Is your Honda an America car just because the Japanese company assembled it in Alabama?

It is not breaking news for anyone who pays attention, but Anheuser-Busch is a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch Inbev, a Belgian-based company. MillerCoors is a joint venture of England’s SAB Miller and Molson-Coors, which operates out of Montreal and Denver but is not an American company. Even if you drink Pabst Blue Ribbon, a brand owned by an American investment firm, you are not drinking beer brewed by an American company. PBR outsources the brewing of its beer to MillerCoors, unless something has changed. It’s hard to keep track these days.

What’s more, there are deeper levels of complication. SAB Miller is actually a South African company and Inbev is actually a Brazilian company. I think it was William Shakespeare who said, “Oh the tangled web we weave when first we practice to conglomerate multi-nationally.”

If you drink beer by any of those manufacturers, you should at least know where your money is going in the end. Me, and most of you reading this blog, prefer to drink American beer.

The New Number One

The story of real interest to craft beer fans is that Yuengling and Sons recently surpassed Boston Beer (makers of Sam Adams) as America’s largest brewery. According to reports from Beer Marketers Insight’s, in 2011 Yuengling saw a 17 percent increase in production, upping its annual production to 2.5 million barrels. Yuengling attributes it success to the good people of Ohio. The brewery just completed its first full year of distribution in that large and thirsty state. Boston Beer produced 2.4 million barrels in 2011.

Another interesting fact, which I learned from a CNBC report while investigating this story, Budweiser is now the number three brand in America. Coors Light surpassed “The King of Beers” this year. For years, Budweiser sat in second place behind Bud Light.

What’s so interesting about that? CNBC ran a Twitter poll asking people why they stopped drinking Budweiser. Unscientific, for sure, but kind of revealing. Poll results saw 68.1 percent of the respondents say that they replaced Budweiser with craft beer. Another 17.8 percent said it was because of the foreign ownership. The remaining 14.1 switched because of the calories.

Of the 68.1 percent of respondents who say they replaced Budweiser with craft beer, I wonder how many are talking about Shock Top, Blue Moon, Bud Light Amber Wheat or some other faux-craft brand? I suppose we should consider that a step in the right direction. Or not.

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  1. A friend who moved out here from PA and assures me that Yuengling’s beers are better than anything we brew out here (he’s not particularly fond of hops, so I can excuse this statement).

    Unfortunately, I have never seen any of their beers in WA so I can offer an opinion. Let’s hope their growth can help send a few bottles our way.

  2. I took a tour and tasted Yuengling’s selection of beers while I was in Tampa. Very good American lager, light and refreshing but I wouldn’t even compare it to a solid craft ale. If you prefer lagers though check it out the next time you’re on the east coast.

  3. I moved to Seattle from the Philadelphia area 4 years ago. Yuengling lager is a good beer, but to say that it’s better than everything else out here is simply not true. I would put it on par with other northwest craft lagers.

  4. I have found yuengling at 99 Bottles and Fread Meyer. A very good American Lager. Better than any PBR, Bud, or Coors-Miller.

  5. Their Lager is what you get if walk into a basic neighborhood bar in most places and for a lager. It is a good brew, for it’s type. Much better than the current examples of Oly and Ranier. They make a decent Porter and their Lord Chesterfields Ale is OK as well. My favorite is the Black and Tan, a blend of Porter and Lager. Until craft brewers started canning brews, it was the best beer in cans by far. If you ever find yourself in the Philly area, it’s worth the couple hour drive to tour the original brewery in Pottsville.

  6. I drink Yuengling whenever I go back home to the Philadelphia area. The amazing thing about Yuengling, from a business standpoint, is that they only distribute in a few markets; they have never tried to be a National brand like Sam Adams.

  7. Riight..had a few of their beers and found to be mediocre at best. Beeradvocate.com has an overall beer rating of 3.19 across the board for all of their beers w/ a combined 4,000 ratings. If I have 4,000 beer lovers coast to coast tell me their beer is average then I would probably say it is average. Bigger is not always better.

  8. @Barleywine BA ratings are a waste of time. Clearly people like Yuengling otherwise their beer wouldn’t be selling. That doesn’t mean it’s better than every other beer out there to everyone lol.

    Drink and explore craft beer for yourself don’t let a bunch of keyboard crusaders tell you what to like based on a rating.

  9. Re: tom

    I asked 99 Bottles about them carrying Yuengling and this is their reply:

    Hi Rob,

    We do not. The furthest West that Yuengling Brewery supplies their beer is Ohio.

    99 Bottles

    I also check Fred Meyer weekly, and they’ve never had it 🙁

  10. As I understand it, and Tiffany would know better than I, there is (in essence, if not reality) a list of beers authorized for distribution in Washington. If Yuengling or one of their distributors wanted to sell it here, there is a process they go through to get it licensed or authorized for distribution in Washington. At least that’s how I understand it. If it aint on that list, it aint on that list.

  11. Who owns Rolling Rock these days? If it’s independent, and American, where does it come on the list of producers?

  12. Hasn’t been an independent since the 1980s — 1987 when Labatt bought it. Then some years later Inbev bought the brand from Labatt. Since 2006 Rolling Rock is owned by Anheuser-Busch and is no longer brewed in Latrobe.

  13. When you order a “lager” back in PA, you get a Yuengling. Its this brewery that began my love of beer and man do I miss it. The fact that its extremely hard to find west of ohio and that they are now considered the largest American brewing company is testament to just how popular this beer is back east. (Love how Georgetown is kinda following this model!) Its not the “greatest” beer, but its affordable and makes you feel right at home, that is ofcourse if your from Philly like I am. If you’ve never had it and are trying to seek it out, try drinking it out of a can or from draught. The green bottles can taste skunky. So great to see Yuengling get some mentions out here! Thanks WBB!

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